Retired Attorney General Eric Holder pushed back on statements made last week by FBI Director James Comey in which Comey suggested the so-called Ferguson effect might be responsible for a recent rise in crime in cities around the country.
In a gathering with reporters Wednesday, Holder told the Huffington Post, “I don’t agree with the comments that he’s made about, or the connection he’s drawn, between the so-called ‘Ferguson effect’ and this rise in crime.”
The Ferguson effect is a name given to a recent spike in crime in some, but not all, American cities this year. The idea is that police have taken note of the public mood and decided to hold back on more aggressive policing.
Eric Holder told the Huffington Post the factors involved in the crime surge would be difficult to tease out, “It’s hard for us to understand why crime dropped to historic lows over the last 40 years. I think it’s probably equally difficult—or even more difficult—to explain why crime has gone up in some places, violent crime has gone up in some places, over the past 12 months.”
But Holder then immediately discounted one possible explanation, saying, “But I don’t think it’s connected to the so-called Ferguson effect.”
The comments by Eric Holder are part of an ongoing war of words within the Obama administration, which escalated last Friday when FBI Director James Comey seemed to endorse the Ferguson effect as an explanation during an address at the University of Chicago Law School.
After ticking off a list of possible explanations for the recent crime surge, Director Comey said, “I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior.”
“Nobody says this on the record. Nobody says this in public,” Comey told his audience last Friday, adding that it was, “the one explanation that, to my mind, explains the calendar and the map.” He was referring to both the widespread increase in crime in cities across the country and the timing of that increase this year.
Former AG Eric Holder rejected the idea that police were holding back because of the public mood Wednesday, telling the Huffington Post, “I frankly don’t think police officers are laying down on the job.”